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Thursday, 24 August 2006 03:21

Jeff Cohen: Hillary Still Hiding on War; Time Warner Provides Cover

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by Jeff Cohen

The cover story in the new issue of TIME, the flagship publication of the Time Warner media empire, informs readers that Hillary Clinton has "virtually nonexistent opposition for her senate seat."

Hold that phrase in your head. Because at another outpost of the Time Warner empire, decisions have been made that help ensure Sen. Clinton will have "virtually nonexistent opposition."

Time Warner's NY1 TV news channel ("the CNN of New York") adamantly refuses to host a Democratic New York Senate debate. Despite protests over its decision, NY1 says it is giving incumbent Clinton a no-debate free pass because her antiwar challenger, union leader Jonathan Tasini, has not raised enough money; the channel arbitrarily set the bar at a half-million dollars. This despite the fact that Tasini has reached 13% in polls. (NY1 first announced its no-debate ruling just as Ned Lamont -- given no chance months ago -- was defeating pro-war incumbent Joe Lieberman in Connecticut's primary.)

Ironically, NY1 has already hosted and televised a Democratic New York gubernatorial debate between frontrunner Eliot Spitzer and a Democratic challenger who was at only 10% in the polls. But that candidate had raised about $6 million. So spending millions to get just 10% in popular support was rewarded by Time Warner's channel, while building a more effective grassroots campaign, largely of volunteers, was punished. (One wonders how much of the money went to NY1.)

Did I mention that Time Warner's PAC is one of the many corporate PACs that underwrites Hillary Clinton's reelection campaign against the "virtually nonexistent opposition"? Or that conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch has also raised funds for her reelection? Or that Hillary Clinton doesn't criticize a media system now dominated by a handful of (JonBenet-obsessed) entertainment conglomerates -- while Tasini wants to see those conglomerates broken up?

In a New York Marist poll taken in July, 62% of Democrats said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who opposes the Iraq war vs. only 9% who said they were more likely to vote for an Iraq war supporter. Thank in part to big media, many New York Democrats don't know that Sen. Clinton has an antiwar opponent in the primary.

Exasperated by the bad publicity over its exclusion, including a critical editorial in Murdoch's New York Post, NY1's general manager recently defended his channel's coverage of the Tasini campaign, and then challenged Murdoch's New York outlets -- Channel 5 and the Post -- to host a Clinton-Tasini debate themselves. Don't count on it.

And despite a New York Times editorial this week chiding Hillary Clinton to explain her Iraq position in debate, don't count on her appearing this Sunday at a public forum in New York City titled "How To Get Out of Iraq." She's been invited to participate, as have all New York senate candidates. So far Sen. Clinton hasn't responded to the invitation, while Tasini has confirmed that he'll be there. The forum features former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, and myself.

Ritter and McGovern are two experts whose assessments of the Iraq situation have been remarkably accurate and astute -- unlike the "experts" Sen. Clinton relied on when she voted to authorize the war and to support the ongoing occupation.

If you are a New York voter, why not call Sen. Clinton's office at 212.688.6262 and politely encourage her to show up at this Sunday's event? It takes place at Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South, starting at 7:00 PM. (For more info, visit http://ustourofduty.org/)

The July Marist poll asked registered voters in New York if the Iraq war should be a major or minor campaign issue. 62% said major, 23% said minor - with the margin even more lopsided among Democrats. Yet as she campaigns around the state, Hillary Clinton treats Iraq as less than a minor issue.

If we had a free, robust and independent media, a candidate who flouts public opinion in such a manner would find it difficult to win reelection.


Jeff Cohen is the founder of FAIR, and author of the new book: Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media.